My old friend, Vertigo, has stopped in for a visit. If you are blessedly unfamiliar, the best way to describe the sensation I experience is to take you back to when you were a child. Playing outside on front yards and sidewalks, a friend would spin you round and round while you scrunched your eyes closed, after which you’d open them and try to walk. Never played that? Growing up, my family lived in neighborhoods chock full of kids with whom my sisters and I spent long summer days entertaining ourselves for free.
Now, in the spinning game (not to be confused with spin-the-bottle), after the first few out-of-control seconds pass, you try ambulating but walking is much more difficult than you think it should be, made worse by certainty that the ground beneath your feet is moving. Everyone backs out of the splash zone in case someone tosses their cookies, and they dance around, making noise to further discombobulate. Your hands go out seeking stability, grasping at anything available. Maybe you do go down, reaping laughter from friends as you breathe easier now that you’re grounded. Dizziness wears off fairly quickly and the next kid gets a turn.
Of course, in real life, the unsteadiness, wooziness, motion, and loss of equilibrium don’t disappear after a minute; vertigo stays as long as it likes. The most recent bout I had lasted a few weeks, and noticing it gone can take a couple days until I realize I’ve made it to the kitchen or laundry room without fear of crashing into things or keeping one hand on the wall.
Vertigo is more than dizziness. It’s also a loss of balance. Getting a cup of coffee from the kitchen to where I set up base camp is to risk burning my hand or splashing coffee about the walls and floor if I go down. I did reach my daytime nest safely today but not before three calls of “whoa!” and nearly knocking my tray of supplies for the day (tissues, medicine organizer, notebook, etc.) upside down.
In Alfred Hitchcock’s film, Jimmy Stewart’s character actually has acrophobia, a fear of heights. Perhaps being up high in a bell tower and looking down induces vertigo for him, or maybe Hitchcock thought “Vertigo” made a sexier title than “Acrophobia.”
Combined dizziness, loss of balance, and resulting nausea lands me in a dysfunctional spot. More than any other symptom, vertigo disables me all on its own, regardless of what else is going on with me. Widespread aches and pains debilitate based on severity and location, but I have acetaminophen, a muscle relaxer, or a mild anxiolytic (Not a benzodiazepine, although I have used them in the past.) to ease some symptoms. No treatment makes vertigo disappear. The most effective method I’ve found for dealing with it is keeping my head in one position when I move. It doesn’t cancel the effects of ongoing vertigo, but looking to either side definitely exacerbates the spinning and tilting. At times, it feels like terrible motion sickness, and then I employ Bonine, generic meclizine, which knocks me out.
As my husband prepared for his workday this morning, and now dealing with a fresh blanket of snow, I told him I was going to try to take a shower before he left. Then I said, “Correction. I am going to take a shower. I’m going to try not to fall.” Success!